(Kid Logic) The legendary Bettye LaVette has released "Hard to Be a Human," the latest single from her upcoming album, LaVette! (June 16), produced by Steve Jordan for Jay-Vee Records (the label founded by Jordan and Meegan Voss.) An interpreter without peer, Bettye recorded an album of songs written by Randall Bramblett. "I think he's the best songwriter I've heard in the past 30 years," says LaVette.
Give a listen to the Afrobeat arrangement of "Hard to Be a Human," featuring a murder's row of musicians-Jordan on drums, bassist Pino Palladino, keyboardist Leon Pendarvis, guitarists Larry Campbell and Chris Bruce, with James Carter on sax. "I LOVE this tune," says Bettye. "I liked it as soon as I heard it, especially the lines 'I was walkin' in the garden, goin' by the plan, dreamin' about my baby, apple in my hand. And then Steve and the guys put together such a great arrangement. My good friend James Carter played the most incredible sax solo, with the actual horn that once belonged to my deceased, dear friend of many years, Beans Bowles. You can't listen to it without at least trying to salsa. Did I mention that I LOVE this tune?"
The song follows the down and dirty "Plan B". "Danglin' on a string, mumblin' a prayer, my mojo's busted and I ain't got a spare," sings LaVette, who reminds us, "I ain't got no Plan B." Some additional guests on the album include John Mayer, Jon Batiste, Anthony Hamilton, Steve Winwood, Ray Parker Jr., Rev. Charles Hodges, James Carter and Pedrito Martinez. Pre-order LaVette! here.
On May 31, the Americana Music Foundation and the Grammy Museum will be hosting "A New York Evening with Bettye LaVette and Steve Jordan" at the Greene Space in New York City. Tickets for the conversation and performance are on sale now.
"When Bettye gets a hold of a song, it becomes her song," Jordan explains. "It's like she wrote it. She's a great messenger, a communicator, an interpreter. I've always felt that if Bettye could just sing the songs she really wanted to sing, she would get the most out of it," says Jordan, "LaVette! checks all the boxes."
"I ain't got no f*cking other plan," says LaVette. She's talking about her 61-year storied career, beginning in 1960's Detroit, with a resurgence in the mid-2000's. Born in Muskegon, Michigan, Bettye's parents, Louisiana migrants, ran a club out of their home. They sold corn liquor and chicken sandwiches and spun records for the Black auto-parts workers and traveling gospel groups who didn't have a hangout to kick back in and call their own. She was a toddler, listening in on old folks' business; learning old folks' ways. Some of that was conversation, observing the interactions, the repartee; some of it was the 78s that spun on the family's jukebox - a trove of blues, gospel, country & western, and the latest R&B that filtered through AM radio playlists.
"Bettye LaVette is like a combination of Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday and Miles Davis," says Jordan. "When I prepare a band for her, I make sure we have it together. When she joins us, we're only gonna get one or two takes, because she puts her heart and soul into each performance."
"I'm very happy with what we've done," Bettye adds. "It is very, very difficult to please an old woman, but I'm nearly excited."
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